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Posted on Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Be approachable for better networking

By Greg Peters


Photo by Loretta Humble

With your networking practice, are you building a front porch or are you building a deck?

One of my favorite authors, J. Michael Straczynski, claimed that people building decks were the beginning of the downfall of our society. Where before we would sit out on our front porch in the evening and greet and know our neighbors, now we hid away in our private world, never interacting with anyone around us.

Whether you believe that's true or not, the concept of building front porches does apply to networking. In order to create a strong network, you need to make those around you welcome in your world. In other words, you need a front porch big enough that you can invite people up for a lemonade and a long chat on a hot summer day.

So, what makes a big front porch?

First of all, you've just got to be willing to reach out. At an event, you've got to be standing until they tell you to sit. Reach out to others with a firm handshake and a smile. After the event, make the call to set up a coffee. Beyond that, make a point to stay connected.

Second, help them get in the conversation. Ask them questions about themselves and be sincerely interested in their responses. Ask for their advice or recommendations.Be interesting by being interested.

Third, be ready to share. You've got to make yourself selectively vulnerable in order to maintain the conversation and thus the relationship. A conversation where only one person is giving information is called an interrogation. Really, you're probably better off if they aren't getting uncomfortable thoughts of being waterboarded when they are talking with you.

Remember, sitting on your deck is no way to build your connections. You've got to put yourself out there and set up shop on the front porch. Only then will people be willing to stop by for a spell to visit, to share and to connect.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

I have to be honest. Relationships and interpersonal interactions should be genuine and not have hidden agendas, as is the case with "networking." Meeting people who are thinking how they might "use" me in the future, aka networking, is a turnoff and I want no part of it. The best way to go through life is to be yourself, meet others that have common interests, and don't take advantage of any personal of professional relationships you have developed. "Using" people through networking is not based on genuine relationships; rather it is based on a superficial "what can I get from you" motivation that is an immediate turnoff. As far as the porch vs the deck in the article, there are many more egregious changes that have led to the isolation and lack of community in American society. When 1950's architecture started building "suburban" ranch houses in housing tracts, that put the car in the front and the people when outside in the back on decks, that was only one part of the ensuing breakdown of community.

Greg Peters

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

Hi, Sallyxyz Thanks so much for reading my post and taking the time to comment. I agree with you entirely about that style of networking. The "transactional" nature of that behavior can definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. Believe me, over the years I have run into my fair share of those who practice the "I've done something for you, now you'd better do something for me" plan. Even worse are the "Do something for me before I will even think of doing something for you" group. One of the messages I have tried to spread with my practice is that the relationship must *always* come first. Anything else and it would be like deciding to become friends with someone because you want to use their pickup truck. We have words for people like that and none of them are complimentary. What you describe -- "The best way to go through life is to be yourself, meet others that have common interests, and don't take advantage of any personal of professional relationships you have developed." -- is a good description of a strong networking mindset. The only change I might make is "... don't take *undue* advantage of any personal or professional relationships..." If I have a good friend who happens to have a pickup truck and our relationship has developed to the point where it would be appropriate, there's nothing wrong with asking for help that weekend when I have to move a dresser to a new home. Similarly, if I have invested enough time, effort, and genuine interest in a business relationship, there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help when I need it. The only time we run into trouble is when we allow our personal goals and desires to drive with whom we connect. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and I hope to run into you in person sometime soon. After all, anyone who has such a fun and whimsical avatar picture is someone whom I'd like to get to know.